Annotated Bibliography

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Click on the image to buy it at Amazon.com   Information and Michael's annotated description of Chicago Books
Passport's Guide to Ethnic Chicago

Passport's Guide to Ethnic Chicago
Rich Lindberg. McGraw-Hill, 2d ed., March 1997.
This “Ethnic Chicago” book is more of a nuts and bolts “when they came, where they settled, where they worked, where they moved once they made some money” study of all the major ethnic groups to settle in the city. A really nice feature is the inclusion of information about where each group can be found today, what festivals they have and what noteworthy holidays they celebrate (or when and where their parade is), and where all the ethnic museums are located.

Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture

Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture
Judith Paine McBrien (illust. John DeSalvo). W. W. Norton & Company, 2nd ed., October 2004.
This is a really good guide to all the major buildings in the downtown area with interesting facts and commentary. This is the one to carry with you when you’re walking around the Loop marveling at buildings.

Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919

Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919
William M. Tuttle, Jr. University of Illinois Press, Illini Book ed., September 1997.
In the summer of 1919, the return of World War I veterans resulted in a severe housing crisis on the south side of Chicago. Nowhere was that crisis more severe than in the thin strip of land running between rail lines down the center of the south side which was known as “the Black Belt.” Black veterans and the thousands of southern black newcomers who had migrated to Chicago during the war swelled what was already an overcrowded neighborhood due to strict segregation. The Black Belt burst at the seams and started to expand, much to the chagrin and anger of the surrounding white community. Tempers were flaring, and the city was a tinderbox waiting to ignite (add to this the fact that Chicago was in the midst of a massive heat wave).

The spark that set things off came in the form of a conflict between black and white bathers on a segregated beach along the south lakefront which resulted in the drowning of a young black man. The incident reverberated through the south side and touched off a massive riot (virtual open warfare) that raged throughout the south side and the downtown for almost two weeks, ending only with an influx of federal troops and a rainstorm. When all was said and done, 38 were dead and over 500 were wounded. You’d think an entire book chronicling this shameful affair would be an unpleasant read, but Tuttle tells the story so effectively and intently (and laying the background of the myriad root causes) that it becomes a gripping saga that serves as a microcosm of all the racial troubles of our nation, past and present. It also serves as a warning to those naive enough to think that it could never happen again.

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A Short History of Chicago
Robert Cromie. Lexikos, October 1984.
It is just what it says, a short history of Chicago from Joliet to the present(ish). I especially like it for its recounting of the early history of the city. Short but succinct.

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The Slum and the Ghetto: Immigrants, Blacks, and Reformers in Chicago, 1880-1930
Thomas Lee Philpott. Wadsworth Pub Co., 2nd ed., January 1991.
This is one of the most illuminating texts on race, ethnicity and class in Chicago that I have yet encountered. Several cherished myths are exploded, among them the myth of “the white ethnic ghetto.” Philpott went through old census data and found that neighborhoods which were thought of as being that of certain ethnic group often contained as many or more people of a different ethnic group. He even questions his own mother (who always spoke of how she grew up in a “Jewish neighborhood”) about the fact that data shows there were more Italians than Jews in her childhood area (she sort of brushes it off with a “Well, I never noticed”- type comment). This really blew my mind until I started thinking about and observing how Chicago is today. In many areas, several different ethnic and racial groups live on the same street, but each group thinks of it as “their” neighborhood because they never really associate with the other groups. They all attend separate churches, drink/eat at different bars and restaurants etc. etc. and basically mentally block each other out.

In my old Rogers Park neighborhood (mostly a mix of blacks and Latinos) for example, I once observed a Mexican family that lived next door to a black one when both groups were out in front getting ready to head to respective holiday picnics. Although they were almost literally shoulder to shoulder for 30 minutes, neither group acknowledged the other, nor did anyone from either camp even look at anyone from the other. If you asked any of the kids from either of those families in twenty years, I’ll bet they’ll say they grew up in a black or Mexican neighborhood. Just go to any park in a multi-ethnic area and see this phenomenon for yourself (Chase or Loyola Parks along the lake in Rogers Park are perfect examples). Anyway (end of digression), this book is invaluable if you want to understand the forces that shaped Chicago’s ethnic and racial history, particularly in terms of the incredible discrimination and racism faced by the city’s black community. Philpott also trashes the myth that white ethnic immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th Century (even the Irish and the Jews) faced anything remotely as bad as the obstacles encountered by blacks.

Smoldering City : Chicagoans and the Great Fire 1871-1874

Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire 1871-1874
Karen Sawislak. University Of Chicago Press, December 1996.
Sawislak uses the Fire as a jumping off point to describe (in rich and riveting detail) the process of rebuilding the city and all the requisite class, ethnic, gender and ethical struggles involved.

The Streets and San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats

The Streets and San Man's Guide to Chicago Eats
Dennis Foley. Lake Claremont Press, May 2004.
Written by Dennis Foley, who is a Streets and Sanitation electrician who also has an MFA in Creative Writing. A city worker with a Masters in creative writing? I guess that means he can goof off in iambic pentameter (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Seriously, this is a very informative and amusing guide to obscure places to find a good cheap lunch in Chicago. Bars, delis, and what I like to call the “Classic Chicago Cholesterol Huts” are included. It even has coupons for many of the places mentioned in the back!

Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names

Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names
Don Hayner. Wild Onion Books, October 1988.
Although it has its limitations, it is (to my knowledge) the only book that explains the origins of Chicago street names.

To Serve and Collect

To Serve and Collect: Chicago Politics and Police Corruption from the Lager Beer Riot to the Summerdale Scandal
Richard C. Lindberg. Southern Illinois University Press, paperback ed., October 1998.
The facts and foibles of the history of the Chicago Police Department are minutely chronicled by Lindberg. Our only kvetch is that the book doesn’t read quite as smoothly as the hilariously clever title would suggest (the writing tends to get a little arid), which is a shame. Still, this is the source for the scoop on the checkered past of the CPD.

The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone

The Wicked City: Chicago from Kenna to Capone
Curt Johnson and R. Craig Sautter. 1st Da Capo Press ed., April 1998.
An entertaining and informative rundown of some of Chicago’s most shady and colorful characters, which is saying a lot in a town known for its shady and colorful characters. Well written and often hilarious, it is a must for those looking to learn more about the city’s larcenous and profane past. Craig Sautter taught the aforementioned Chicago Authors class to which Kenen Heise spoke (you’d be hard pressed to find a better instructor or cooler guy).

A Wild Kind of Boldness: The Chicago History Reader

A Wild Kind of Boldness: The Chicago History Reader
Chicago Historical Society, ed. Rosemary K. Adams. Eerdmans Pub Co., April 1998.
This book is a collection of articles that appeared in The Chicago Historical Society’s much revered periodical publication Chicago History. They are arranged to coalesce into a single history of Chicago, from trading post to metropolis (the article that formed the seed of Karen Sawislak’s Smoldering City is included). Fascinating stuff, but these are very scholarly (often arid) texts, so don’t get this book as a gift for Aunt Edna or little Billy (unless they are working on their dissertations) or even for yourself (unless you’re ready to don your “thinking cap,” as the nuns used to say).

 

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